I was born in Massachusetts and I've lived in LA since 1989, but I spent my formative years in the San Jose area (my neighborhood was originally part of San Jose, but was later annexed by Cupertino, home of Apple). Today, despite the fact that Silicon Valley companies now run much of the nation's economy, I still have to explain to most non-Californians that the place where I grew up is about 40 miles south of San Francisco – not on the beach, not in the forest, and not near Los Angeles at all. Poor unloved Santa Clara County! This list is a tribute to those successful people who came from this orchard land-cum-sprawling multiethnic suburb.
- Teri Hatcher. One of the Internet's first "it girls", Hatcher became popular in the mid-'90s during her stint on Lois and Clark. She then starred in films like The World Is Not Enough and Spy Kids before entering her career's second act: Desperate Housewives. Hatcher was born in Palo Alto and raised in Sunnyvale, where she attended Fremont High School.
- Smash Mouth. This two-hit wonder is pretty much the only major rock band to come out of San Jose, although San Francisco's Grateful Dead did play their first gig in SJ, and in the late '60s the town gave birth to obscure one hit wonder The Count Five ("Psychotic Reaction"). [2013 update: The Doobie Brothers, pre-Michael McDonald and widespread success, are also from SJ.]
- Steve Wozniak & Steve Jobs. What would a list of Silicon Valley notables be without the two Steves? After graduating from Homestead High in Cupertino, they launched Apple Computer in a local garage and begot the personal computer revolution.
- Farley Granger. The clean-cut actor from Hollywood's golden age is best remembered today for the two Hitchcock films he starred in, Rope (1948) and Strangers on a Train (1951). The San Jose-born Granger never became an A-lister, but those films are classics.
- Aaron Eckhart. This increasingly popular movie star (In the Company of Men, Erin Brockovich, Nurse Betty) was born in Cupertino, though his family moved to England when he was 13.
- Kristi Yamaguchi & Rudy Galindo. When I was a teenager, the one local celebrity everybody kept their eye out for was figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, who later won the gold at the 1992 Olympics. Kristi hails from Fremont, while Rudy – who Kristi dumped as a skating partner before he achieved fame several years later on his own – is an SJ boy. Legendary skaters Peggy Fleming and Brian Boitano are also from the area. What is the connection between sunny San Jose and champion ice skating? There's a story here somewhere...
- Chuck Berry? This is a controversial inclusion, as Berry and his biographers insist that the pioneering rocker was born in the more musically relevant Saint Louis, where he grew up. But rumors persist that he breathed his first breaths in unhip San Jose.
- The Smothers Brothers. Tom and Dick Smothers, who hosted a beloved 1960s TV variety show (and another good one in the '80s) are one of the most successful comedy-musical acts in history. They are always mentioned as being "from" San Jose, but they grew up in the LA area and only headed north for college. Why they both chose San Jose State University is a mystery, but they remain two of the school's most famous grads.
- Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. Here's one local boy that many Silicon Valleyites would rather disown: the silent film star whose career was ruined after he was accused of raping and murdering actress Virginia Rappe in 1921. (He was acquitted by the court, but not by the public.) Arbuckle was born in Kansas, but raised in San Jose.